November 28, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Opening the Mountain Flood Gates 

Winter's official start marked by lift line reunions

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Every year in November, the base of Whistler Mountain becomes the centre of the ski universe.

High school kids cocoon themselves in sleeping bags and slumber the night away at the base of the gondola to be the first to carve turns on opening day. Early risers brave the dark with camp chairs and blankets. The corral spills Gore-Tex clad skiers and snowboarders out into the plaza, their equipment haphazardly arranged as they stomp boots to shake out the morning cold.

The sun won't rise for another two hours.

Opening day for Whistler Blackcomb is about as anticipatory as it gets in this town. Every employee in the valley is puckering up to their supervisor begging for a few hours off for the morning of the big day, and the legions of hard working, summer ski bums have thrown their jobs to the wind.

It's time to ride.

Feeling snow under the boards may be the primary reason for hundreds of people to shiver for hours waiting for the Whistler Gondola to load its first cabin, but for the veterans it is, as much about the people they will see on opening day. Friends unseen since spring — who had scattered across the valley for summertime activities — greet each other in the lift line like it was only yesterday they were last heading up the mountains. Stories of that first run of the season are swapped and one-upped as everyone debates which zone to hit next.

The Roundhouse is bustling at lunchtime, as freshly recruited food and beverage workers struggle to keep up with the queues. Handshakes, high fives and friendly backslaps can be seen in every direction.

Whistler's largest community has reconvened.

To delve into the experiences of opening d ay and what means to the local ski and snowboard culture, Pique caught up with several athletes who call Whistler home, all whom rarely miss the first opportunity to ski the resort on its first day of operations.

Here's what they have to say about their perfect first day on the slopes — and a few tips for our visitors.


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